12 Nail-Art Designs That Look Great on Shorter Nails

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Essie's Nail Polish in Caught on Tape, a warm, glittery yellow-gold shade, is a fabulous option (as are any of the sparkly polishes in this round-up). “Adding glitter to tips can make short nails appear longer — plus, it's a great way to extend the life of a manicure once it starts chipping," says Mazz. "Layering fine glitter polish under a chunkier option also adds dimension and extra sparkle.

In terms of how to do your own animal print designs, manicurist Mar y Sol Inzerillo recommends using a dotting tool and the brush that comes with your polish. "I like to finish the nails that will not have nail art on them first so that they dry while I work on the rest — then, on a small piece of tin foil dab the color you'd like to use for the animal print and get to work," she says. "Make sure to leave a good amount of space between the print as the negative space makes it look more realistic.

Everyone will be asking about your nails when you step out with this squiggly, pastel look, which features asymmetrical black-cloud tips with tiny stars for a cute celestial theme. "Taking classic designs and making them more abstract not only looks great on short nails, but it's easy enough for a beginner to DIY at home," says Mazz, who suggests using a toothpick and a bobby pin for this particular manicure.

And, when it's only applied to the accent nails, it winds up making more of a statement because it stands out against the solid colors. "For shorter nails, I suggest using animal print on a few fingernails, though not all of them, as this draws more attention to the manicure while also adding more variety to your nail art," says Lin.

You and your adorable short nails can still hang. "As a former nail-biter, I can attest that nail art makes every length look extra fabulous," says New York City-based nail artist Miss Pop. "If you have very short nails, consider focusing the design down by the cuticle — try a half-moon or a negative-space look. " In fact, these manicures look amazing on all lengths, especially shorties like yours (and mine).

This dreamy rose quartz manicure is just another look that's especially ideal for short nails. "If your nails are short because they are damaged from improper gel or acrylic removal, rose quartz-inspired nail art is a great way to hide imperfections on the nail plate," says Mazz.

Plus, according to nail artist and founder of sundays studio, Amy Lin, it can actually help make your digits look longer — no acrylics needed. "This can be done easily with a brush," she says, adding that using tape is a good option for beginners. "Try using an angular design that will also help elongate the look of your nails.

The main feat with a manicure like this is getting the appliqués to stick — that said, there are things you can do to ensure they won't budge. "Using a super thick gel-like top coat can help the gems stay in place," says Mazz, whose favorite is Seche's Vive Gel Effect Top Coat. "It's super glossy, makes manicures last for weeks, and dries in under five minutes.

Make the flowers smaller than half the size of your nail for a fun dainty effect that won't look too overwhelming on short nails. "I'd also only do floral designs like these on a few nails to make them the focal point," she says.

For this look, placement is super important, says Lin. "Where you put the flowers can be crucial for short nails — for instance, placing them in a vertical order like this can enlarge the nails and draw more attention to the center of the nail.

Wear this cut-out, geometric half-moon design any time of year and you're bound to get compliments. "A negative space design like this can be long-lasting and stays on even when your nails grow out," says Lin in regards to why it works for short nails.

Additionally, an important tip if you're trying to grow your nails out is to keep them constantly hydrated. "Use a cuticle oil made with nourishing oils frequently to help nails get healthy and strong," says Mazz. © 2020 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.

This edgy black-and-neon design is proof that the French manicure can be anything but basic — and pros are on the same page. "The new French manicure is no longer about the perfect half-moon shape, but instead about creating a line, even be it a skinny line with a bright color," says Lin. "It's not about achieving the perfect shape but about using color for self-expression.

If you don't own one, Los Angeles-based nail artist Mazz says there are definitely items around your house that will do the trick, too. "Never underestimate the power of a bobby pin and a toothpick when creating nail art at home," she says. "They are some of the best tools for making nearly perfect circles, and you can also use an old eyeliner brush to create fine lines in a look like this.

Additionally, Lin says you don't have to be too precise when using glitter nail polish, which is most definitely a bonus. "Glitter polishes are easier than regular ones to apply, as you don't have to put your polish on perfectly smooth and it'll still look good," she says.

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